Commander Spotlight: Knowledge Pool

It always seems like the more involved you get with any community, the more cyclical certain events become. Perhaps it’s that the same events occur at a regular schedule and feature the same faces. Or perhaps it’s listening to the same complaints within your social media circle (or kitchen table) over and over again like a cynically-powered clock. And sometimes it’s simply finding yourself having the same conversations and debates over and over again because the problem is endemic to the activity you’re a part of, with the newly initiated merely voicing the very same arguments as those who came before them.

When it comes to Magic and the color pie, it’s almost certainly the latter most scenario. Because while veteran players are used to the age-old arguments about what colors can, can’t, should, or shouldn’t be able to do, it’s always going to be a new topic for some player only just reaching the point in their gaming tenure to espouse an opinion on the matter. To them, it’s a new precept. And the cycle continues anew.

In reality, it’s not the entirety of the Magic community that tend to routinely whine about color restrictions. Rather, the vast majority of these voices come from those who spend most of their time in non-rotating formats such as Modern, casual, and yes, Commander. The reason is simple: the larger pool of cards you have access to, the more likely you are to draw inspiration from older cards that no longer fit within today’s color philosophies, or alternatively, you find your beliefs reinforced due to having access to supplemental cards that are clear breaks from said philosophy and you want more of them. You occasionally hear grumblings from the Standard and Limited crowds about certain colors not being able to have answers to the current meta of the time, but that’s usually more about whether they feel the color has the requisite tools its needs to be competitive in that moment than a solid worry about the limitations of a color writ large.

When it comes to such conversations, however, they are almost always centered around aspects of what a color has (or doesn’t have) access to as to be able to play a color competitively in a monocolored fashion. That is, when it comes to color pie arguments, it’s always about pleading the case why one color doesn’t have the same functionality of another color – be it a cool mechanic or simply a means of overcoming that color’s built-in limitations. This is born out of desire and sometimes necessity (especially in long game settings such as Commander), and so the most ardent talking points have a tendency of getting repeated over and over again to that end.

Or, put another way: when it comes to whining about color pie restrictions, no one ever seems to do so with a focus on a color’s more uniquely offbeat (if not necessarily advantageous properties), such as Blue’s large, unwieldy leviathans or Black’s ability to force opponents to repeatedly discard cards.

Or, say, Red’s propensity for chaos-inducing cards with its card bucket of random-based effects.

Well, this week we’re inverting the scope of the tireless argument by doing precisely that. This week we’re celebrating the oddities of the color pie and showing off a wacky, game-changing card that, normally, isn’t seen much outside of Red’s sphere of influence.

Today we have: Knowledge Pool

Name: Knowledge Pool

Edition: Mirrodin Besieged

Rarity: Rare

Focus: Board Disruption / Card Exile

Highlights: It seems a little strange that in the middle of the Scars block, when the entire plane of Mirrodin is being conquered and assimilated by the Phyrexians, that you would find a card – an artifact no less – that focuses on the more unrestrained side of gameplay. Nevertheless, that’s where Knowledge Pool found itself debuting, allowing players in all five colors access to a little game-altering chaos.

At its absolute most basic, Knowledge Pool is a six mana artifact that forces each player to exile the top three cards of their deck, forming a pile of exiled cards. By itself, that would hardly be an effective use of your time and resources, let alone an EDH card slot. However, its linked second ability more than makes up for it.

The primary effect of Knowledge Pool states that whenever any player – not just you – casts a card from their hand, that spell is instead exiled to the pile of Knowledge Pool cards. Then, you are able to play any other card that’s been exiled by Knowledge Pool for free. This allows you to cast your own cards or those of another player without worrying about mana costs or timing restrictions. A cheap utility spell could allow you to drop out a giant creature, and a fairly useless situational card could yield the exact kind of response card you need at that moment. The pool of possibilities shifts each game depending on the decks being used and the number of players, guaranteeing that every instance of its use will be unique and unpredictable. And, yes, even fun. There is a certain degree of amusement in EDH games when carefully planned tactics go completely sideways, and this card allows more than Red players access to the fun for once.

There are two pitfalls with the card, though, aside from the general nature of disrupting the flow of everyone’s decks, eliminating the ability to merely cast the spell you want in that moment, and creating more unpredictability in the game overall. The first is that the appeal of Knowledge Pool works best when you get a return on your investment, either in terms of playing a card from exile that’s more expensive or more useful than the one you cast. It’s less appealing if you have to cast mid-range costing spells simply to get a mid-range spell in return, which can put a damper on the playful randomness it exudes. But that is, as they say, all luck of the draw.

The second is…don’t have more than one of these out at the same time. What you get isn’t additive chaotic entertainment insomuch as a trigger tracking headache, which tends to take all of the fun out of it and then some. So just…don’t.

Keep an eye out for us to be regularly featuring other more accessible-but-worth-it Commander cards going forward. In the meantime, we’ll keep the light on for you.

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